Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft - Part 1: 50-31

With the World Under 18's wrapped up and the OHL playoffs coming to an end (although not the Memorial Cup), it seems like a fitting time to release my final top 50 for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. I've had two previous lists this season; a preliminary one in October (here) and a midterm one in December (here).

The top 50 will be released in three parts: Part 1 - Prospects 50-31, Part 2 - Prospects 30-11, and Part 3 - Prospects 10-1.

Just for clarification, for my top 50 ranking, I haven't included any players eligible for draft re-entry, such as Andy Andreoff or Michael Houser. This has been consistent all the way through my lists. Instead, I did a list of the top 10 draft re-entries, which can be found here.

Also for clarification, this list is MY list of the top 50 OHL prospects, as if I were drafting for my own team. In other words, this isn't a list of where I THINK or believe players will go, but a ranking of my own opinion on the top players eligible for this draft based on my viewings this season. If you want a draft projection and information about players outside the OHL, be sure to order the Future Considerations Guide (here). Our pal and FC's scouting editor Aaron Vickers has told me the guide should be ready in the coming month. There are various other avenues out there as well, such as THN, Redline, and HockeyProspect (where former OHL Prospect Blogger Ryan Yessie now works).

Without further ado, here are prospects 50 through 31 (with a special honorable mention)...

Special Honorable Mention: Justin Thomas - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Alright, so I'm breaking all the rules here. Yes, this truly is a top 51. But, Thomas' inclusion on this list is a separate entity. Do I think he'll be drafted? No, I doubt it. But would it be a shrewd move for an NHL scouting team? I can think of worse ways of spending a 7th rounder. Thomas got off to a very exciting start to the 2010-2011 season after spending most of last year in the NOJHL (where he averaged over a ppg). He's got great size at 6'2, 210lbs and he's definitely a power forward prospect. He throws his weight around, drops the mitts (and can be a little hotheaded at times). But he's also a talented player offensively who has soft hands in front of the net and good goal scoring instincts. Here's the problem...Thomas injured his shoulder after just 11 games. If he would have played the entire OHL season, he'd likely be in serious discussion as a top 3 round pick (as perhaps the most pure power forward the OHL has to offer). But can an NHL team roll the dice on a player who has played a total of 19 OHL games the past two seasons? And better yet, is there an NHL team who has a good enough read on him after that few games? The answer to both of those questions is likely no, which makes Thomas a great candidate for a high draft selection next year should he rebound well from injury.

50. Colin Suellentrop - Defenseman - Oshawa Generals
Definitely a prospect who made great strides this year, after being thrust into a larger role on an improving team. He's a stay at home type defender with good size at 6'2, 190lbs (probably fills out into the 210lbs range as a pro), but he's also fairly mobile. That mobility on the back end is definitely something NHL scouts look for in physical, stay at home types. While Suellentrop certainly profiles as a physical, shut down type, he will need to become a bit meaner and use his size in front of the net. He also will need to improve his positional defense, as at times he can get caught flat footed by forwards attacking off the rush. But on the plus side, his offensive game started to make strides later in the year and he even began to use that mobility by skating the puck out of his own zone, instead of making simple chip plays. He'll likely have to play on Oshawa's top pairing next year (because of graduations) so that makes him a likely breakout candidate given the improvements he made this year.

49. Ben Thomson - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
I had to admit, I expected bigger things from Thomson this year. He was so dependable as a 16 year old, in a checking and cycling role. And don't get me wrong...he played that same role this year for Kitchener. But the offensive game never really found its stride. He scored the same amount of goals this year (6) and failed to live up to the offensive expectations many Kitchener fans had for him. None the less, he remains an intriguing prospect. He's literally a man child. He's already 6'4, 205lbs and will probably be upwards of 220lbs by the time his OHL career ends. He's hard to contain on the cycle, as he keeps his feet moving and plays a large role in tiring out the opposing defense each night. But his lack of improvement in skating and puck carrying ability really hampered his offensive production this season. Obviously, a lack of ice time played a part too, but this can't be the sole excuse. What you're drafting is a current legit physical grinder who'll drop the gloves and work his butt off in the offensive zone. What you're hoping he'll develop into is a serious power forward with some goal scoring ability.

48. Spencer Abraham - Defenseman - Brampton Battalion
This season, Abraham has drawn a lot of comparisons to Owen Sound's Geoffrey Schemitsch as an undersized offensive defenseman playing in his first OHL season. Schemitsch obviously ended up going fairly high in the NHL draft (4th round). But there's a reason why Abraham isn't being as highly touted. He's nowhere near as polished as Schemitsch, who was playing on the penalty kill and in important defensive situations for Owen Sound last year (on top of being a key offensive contributor). That's not to say that Abraham is some scrub, it's just that he's a lot rawer. He definitely made a big impact on the powerplay this year and looks very comfortable as a powerplay quarterback (nearly 70% of his points were accumulated with the man advantage). He displays good vision and makes a lot of clean, crisp passes. He also does a good job of getting low, hard shots off towards the net. And while his solid skating ability allows him to defend relatively well off the rush, he needs a lot of work in his own end. He can get caught running around a bit and is out muscled by bigger forwards in the corners. He actually saw limited action 5 on 5 this season, at times playing solely as a powerplay quarterback, with the occasional 5 on 5 shift. But there's definite potential there from a player who shows a lot of intelligence offensively and was playing in only his first season above the midget level. Check out Neate Sager's Draft Tracker 5 questions with Spencer.

47. Carter Sandlak - Forward - Belleville Bulls
Sandlak has a few things going for him. For one, he's the son of former NHL first round pick Jim Sandlak (even if Jim never lived up to his draft hype). Second, he's a sandpaper type of guy who always holds value in the middle to later rounds. Sandlak is a maturing two way winger who'll attack on the forecheck, work the cycle and get his nose dirty in front of the net. I really don't think there's a ton of offensive upside there, but he could certainly profile as a bottom liner and penalty killer at the next level. On the other hand, he did improve his offensive production with Belleville (after the trade with Guelph) which includes a stretch of 7 goals and 6 assists in his final 19 games. Maybe there's some power forward potential hidden deep in there. While I probably wouldn't look at him until the mid-later rounds, I expect there's an NHL team who thinks enough of his NHL potential (offensively) to take him as high as the 3rd round.

46. David Broll - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Broll is a big bruiser who is definitely one of the most physical players available from the OHL. And while he might be best known from his brutal knockout at the hands of Justin Sefton this year, Broll is a solid power forward prospect. His skating improved a bit this year (although still needs work), and he might even be more effective cutting some of that 225lbs frame down. One criticism I've heard, and I've actually witnessed first hand, is that he can be too cute offensively. Not really something you hear about power forwards too often. But he can prone to overhandling the puck and spending too much time away from the net. He'd be better suited in simplifying his offensive game to the point of crashing the net and being that BBP (thanks Pierre McGuire) in front of the opposing goaltender. You don't like to stifle the offensive creativity of a forward, but I think he'd be better for it. There's also the mysterious one game team suspension he got towards the end of the season. Depending on the specifics of the event, that might scare NHL teams off. I really could see him going anywhere in the draft; from as high as the 2nd round (see Dalton Smith last year) to late rounds.

45. Colin Miller - Defenseman - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Miller is cut from the same cloth as Mississauga's Stuart Percy. The difference? Percy plays for the Memorial Cup host Majors and Miller plays for the last place Greyhounds. He's a very quietly effective defenseman who keeps things simple and reads and reacts well defensively. He's also a good skater and it allows him to skate the puck out of the zone, rather than making simple chip plays off the glass. A testament to his strong play in his own end? He finished a +2 on a team that gave up 277 goals on the season. Towards the end of the season, he started to really pick up his offensive production, with 2 goals and 8 assists in his final 12 games. He was taking more chances offensively and I think showed that perhaps there's a bit more to him than I previously thought. He'll have to beef up a bit and become a little more physical in his own end, but I think there's a lot to like about Miller's game.

44. Anthony Camara - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
With 19 fighting majors on the season, Camara actually finished in the top 5 of the OHL in this category. At 6'1, 205lbs, he definitely keeps up with the majority of heavyweight fighters in the league. But he's not just a fighter (even if his offensive numbers might indicate that). He's a capable offensive player who can take the puck hard to the net and actually creates a lot of space for his linemates away from the puck. He forechecks hard, plays both ends of the ice, and is a pretty solid all around player. He's also one of the youngest players available for this draft, which is always intriguing. Like Carter Sandlak, I'm not sure there's a TON of offensive potential, but I think Camara is a pretty safe bet to be an NHL player as at least a scrapper who can take a regular shift.

43. Michael Curtis - Forward - Belleville Bulls
Had probably the most disappointing season of any draft eligible player...for me. I had very big expectations for Curtis after his rookie season when he didn't look like your average 16 year old, scoring 19 goals and playing both ends of the ice. But his ranking by scouting agencies remained pretty consistent throughout the year, which probably bodes well to him still being drafted. He's not incredibly big (about 6'0), but he's very quick and uses that speed to create things offensively. The big ice in Belleville never met a fast player it didn't like, so I think it's only a matter of time before he "breaks out." Because he's such a strong two way player, I think Belleville's ineptitude this season really hurt his offensive production. As a two way player, you have to wonder if he tired himself out in his own zone. Those 19 goals in his rookie year were no fluke, Curtis does have goal scoring potential. I think the next major step for him will be trying to use that speed more effectively on the forecheck and improving his play along the boards to transform himself into that prototypical energy guy who can chip in offensively. Here's Neate Sager's Draft Tracker 5 questions segment with Curtis.

42. Dario Trutmann - Defenseman - Plymouth Whalers
This Swiss import definitely played up to par for the Whalers this season. He's only 6'0, 180lbs, but he plays much bigger than that. He's quite physical and mixes things up in the corners and in front of the net. While he's more of a stay at home type right now, I think there's some offensive potential and a chance he develops into a more well rounded blueliner. He has quick feet and really controls gaps well. It's very hard to get by him off the rush. Obviously, there's probably some concern as to whether he can continue with that aggressive style at the NHL level, considering his lack of "elite" size. But don't tell a guy like Mark Cundari that. I'd like to see him rush the puck out of his zone more and shoot the puck more from the point, but in his first OHL season, it seemed like he was just trying to keep things simple. Taking more chances offensively might lead to greater offensive production, but I think he has the defensive intelligence and skating ability to cover up those chances that fail.

41. Frankie Corrado - Defenseman - Sudbury Wolves
Corrado is one of the more interesting defenseman eligible for 2011, in my opinion. He's definitely a project, but he's a project that could pay off big in the future should his development take the right course. Once paired with fellow draft eligible defenseman Justin Sefton, the two of them really saw great improvements in their game. By the end of the season, they were probably Sudbury's top pairing. Corrado is a high risk player. He's a very good skater who has explosive straight ahead speed, which makes him a very dangerous player when leading the rush. He's also a physical player who loves to catch guys with their head down, entering the zone. But he can be prone to frustration offensively and will force passes up ice to make things happen. He's also a work in progress defensively and has lapses where he fails to tie up his man, or gets exposed/outworked along the wall. But the intangibles are there. He reminds me a lot of Jesse Blacker in his draft season, and we all know how well he's progressed throughout his OHL career.

40. Matej Machovsky - Goaltender - Brampton Battalion
While he didn't play a ton, Machovsky certainly made an impression in his first OHL season. The Czech Import saw his stock increase after a trade to Brampton that saw him earn significantly more playing time than he was receiving in Guelph. He's got good size at 6'2 and is a very athletic goaltender (what Czech goalie isn't?). He can make those "highlight reel" saves because of his flexibility and quickness in net. But at this point, he relies primarily on his athleticism and not as much on technique and positioning. There's a lot to work with because of that "rawness" to his approach in the crease. In that way, he's a similar netminder to Czech Petr Mrazek who was a mid round pick last year. On a negative note, he was apparently only lukewarm at the Under 18's, where more was expected of a Czech Republic team that barely avoided relegation. Hopefully that doesn't leave too sour of a taste in scout's mouths.

39. Austen Brassard - Forward - Belleville Bulls
He's definitely way lower on my list than anybody else's I've seen (THN has him at 81st overall, CSS at 64th among NA skaters). I must admit, I've never seen him play a good game, so it's hard to have him ranked as high as others might have him. I'd be an idiot if I didn't see the allure to him as an NHL prospect though. I know of those who like him a lot and are confident he has NHL potential. But even those who like him admit that he has severe consistency issues. He's got size and has offensive ability, which is enough to enamor most people. But in order to take that next step offensively, he's going to have to learn to use his size more effectively...and more consistently. At this point, I'm not sure he profiles as the type of guy you're going to want on your 3rd or 4th lines, which means that you're drafting him hoping one of two things. One, that his offensive production increases and his game reaches a new level (certainly possible) and you don't have to worry about breeding a checking line player. Two, if his offensive game never finds that consistency, that his play without the puck and physicality improve to the point where he becomes a valuable mucker with some skill around the net. Brassard is definitely a project pick.

38. Justin Sefton - Defenseman - Sudbury Wolves
Sefton finds himself on the list just a few spots above his defense partner in Sudbury, Frankie Corrado. Sefton improved immensely over the course of the season. Over the first few months, fans and scouts alike were very frustrated with Sefton and his lack of development (considering his very high OHL draft selection). But the light slowly went on and he began looking more and more comfortable on the ice. His skating is a work in progress, but at 6'3, 200lbs he projects as a quality people mover at the next level. I do think his physicality is a bit overblown though, based more on his punching prowess (like the aforementioned Broll knockout) and less on his physicality on the puck and in front of the net. I think he can really take that intensity to the next level and become an even more physical player; one of the more imposing defenseman in the OHL. He'll have to take that next step to be considered a serious NHL prospect. One of Sefton's most underrated qualities is actually his point shot. He'll play on the powerplay at some point in his OHL career and he does a good job of getting hard, low shots on net. The fact that he improved so much this season is promising. As he gains further confidence, and gets even stronger, his play in his own end has the potential to be taken to a very high level.

37. Keevin Cutting - Defenseman - Owen Sound Attack
Easily one of the most underrated players available this year. I think it's primarily because a lot of people have forgotten about him. After a solid 16 year old season, there was a lot of thought he might develop into one of the stronger 1992 defenseman in the OHL. But he had a really poor sophomore season last year and fell off the radar. But, sometimes those late birthday's can really help players. This season, he's been fantastic, in something of a different role for the Attack. He's taken on the part as one of the team's primary shutdown defenseman on a pairing with Jay Gilbert. He does a little bit of everything for Owen Sound really. His +23 on the year was a definite highlight and a testament to the type of defender he's developed into. He doesn't possess elite size (6'1, 180lbs), but he's more physical than his penalty minute numbers indicate and he makes good decisions with the puck in his own end. He can also skate the puck out of trouble and has the skating ability to jump up in the rush when he's feeling randy. When Jesse Blacker and Matt Stanisz move on to the pro ranks next year, I'll be curious to see how Cutting progresses offensively, when he'll no doubt have an increased role. For more on Cutting, check out Neate Sager's Draft Tracker 5 Questions with him.

36. Barclay Goodrow - Forward - Brampton Battalion
Yes, Goodrow needs to improve his skating. He'll be the first to admit that (see Neate Sager's Draft Tracker 5 Questions with him). But how many 6'2, 210lbs wingers led their team in goals this year? Sure his 24 goals don't look impressive on paper, but when you consider that Goodrow plays for the offensively inept Battalion, things get put in a different perspective. Goodrow just knows how to score goals. He picks up garbage ones in the crease. He can fire one top shelf coming down the wing. He can handle one timers in the slot. Big guys with hands like his don't grow on trees. The rest of his game does need work. He'll need to find that next level of intensity to become a more physical player so that he's more involved in the play every shift (he can be prone to stretches of disappearing). He'll also need to start taking the puck hard to the net more consistently to create scoring chances, rather than being a "shooting specialist." But there are shifts where you can see that this player is inside of Goodrow. He doesn't come without his faults, but when you consider his size and goal scoring ability, you have to be intrigued.

35. Garrett Meurs - Forward - Plymouth Whalers
Another guy who really disappointed me this year. He's as talented offensively as many of the top guys available for this draft, but for whatever reason just couldn't put things together in 2010-2011. The same things that plagued his 16 year old season, plagued him this year (overhandling the puck, sloppy passes in the offensive end). This lack of development has led many to believe his hockey sense might be lacking a bit. Right now, he needs the puck on his stick to be most effective. He really needs to simplify things in the offensive zone and pick his spots to show off his puck skill and creativity. This is especially true as a winger. That being said, he's a prime candidate for that light bulb to finally go off upstairs. He has a ton of skill and if he ever figures out what to do with it, look out. He's a solid gamble in the mid rounds if you've seen enough of him to be sure that his offensive skill set will eventually translate to higher production.

34. Mike Morrison - Goaltender - Kitchener Rangers
A big time favourite of Future Considerations chief scout Dan Stewart (he's in their top 60 for the draft), Morrison had a very solid year for Kitchener, his first full season in the league after parts of two others. Morrison was especially strong in the playoffs, after spelling Brandon Maxwell. He may not have that huge frame NHL scouts are looking for in their goalies nowadays (6'0), but he is a very quick goaltender. He's also got a strong glove hand to compensate for that chunk of net he doesn't cover when down in the butterfly. Like any junior goalie, he doesn't come without flaws. Morrison will need to work on his five hole and doing a better job of taking away the lower part of the net by taking better angles. His rebound control is also inconsistent. But you have to admire his compete level and he really pushed Brandon Maxwell for playing time this year in Kitchener. While I'm not convinced he should be rated as high as FC has him, I think he's a solid mid round gamble by a team who thinks they can work with his athleticism and fix some of those holes.

33. Jordan Binnington - Goaltender - Owen Sound Attack
And the award for the player who was thrust in his role prematurely yet he still performed well, goes to...Jordan Binnington. With Scott Stajcer playing so strong to start the OHL season and Owen Sound looking like a Western powerhouse, scouts were probably thinking they wouldn't get much of a look at Binnington this season. But then Stajcer got injured and the, now Memorial Cup bound (and OHL Champs), Attack had to rest their laurels on their young sophomore goaltender. He certainly wasn't the most consistent performer, and had his share of off nights, but he battled hard and kept his team in most games. He has that long rangy frame (a stark contrast to the above mentioned Mike Morrison) that NHL scouts like (6'2) and he makes a lot of good reactionary saves. When he's on his game, he can be tough to beat. He can definitely be prone to giving up some bad goals. Whether that's a positional thing, or a focus thing, I'm not sure. He's definitely a work in progress, but given how well he performed under the circumstances, I'm sure he caught someone's eye (Central Scouting has been a big supporter this season). And being in net (and playing well) for Owen Sound during the final few games of the OHL Championship, has to help his cause. I'll be interested to see how he plays at the Memorial Cup.

32. Andrey Pedan - Defenseman - Guelph Storm
I'm not sure we really know what we're going to get from this tall, athletic rearguard. He came into the season hyped as a guy with strong offensive skills, but instead looked like a physical shutdown guy in Guelph. Then in the playoffs, his offensive game really emerged. Pedan is a guy who might just have a lot of hidden potential. At 6'4 and with physical tendencies, he definitely profiles as AT LEAST, a solid stay at home guy. This is compounded by the fact that he skates very well for a big man and is able to cover very well off the rush. While he looked hesitant to rush the puck or take chances offensively during the regular season, he was much more confident offensively in the playoffs and was looking like a guy who could draw some powerplay time next year. Maybe there's a solid two way defenseman down there somewhere, a guy who can provide solid defense, but also lead the rush and make good decisions with the puck out of his zone. I know blog friend Kirk Luedeke is a fan. If a team really thinks Pedan has offensive potential, he could be off the board faster than we think.

31. Mitchell Theoret - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
OK, so maybe I'm taking crazy pills, but I just don't understand why this guy gets zero love from the scouting community (not even ranked by Central Scouting). Yes, part of it could be his role on the team's 4th line and lack of exposure. But that certainly hasn't held back Joe Cramarossa from getting attention. Theoret has the size, tenacity and even skill to make an excellent 3rd line winger at the NHL level. At different times this season, Niagara had some injuries and when Theoret filled in on scoring lines, he looked comfortable and effective. And when he's crashing and banging on the 4th line, he's always a visible factor. He's an excellent forechecker and boards player who plays a pivotal role in wearing down the opposing defense for Niagara's top lines. He sticks up for his teammates, plays both ends of the ice and can also really throw a check. But most of all, he's actually got skill with the puck and has the hands to be a competent scorer in this league. He reads plays well offensively and gets himself in good position for scoring chances, and he can handle the puck at full speed, which suggests he might be able to develop a power game down the line. I know coach Marty Williamson expects huge things from Theoret next year in a scoring role (replacing someone like Darren Archibald or Jason Wilson). I hope there is an NHL team out there who saw enough of Theoret to know what he's capable of.

That's the first twenty in the books. Stay tuned for Part 2: 30-11.

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